We say goodbye to Martha without saying anything at all.
In a mesmerizing silent opening, this episode of The Americans walks us through the departure (for now) of a character who has become the beating heart of this show: Martha Hanson, the FBI secretary who became an unwitting pawn in the cat-and-mouse, counter-espionage game between the Soviet Union and the United States.
Now, her role is clear — both to herself and her supervisors at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is time to run.
A clock ticks. Faces are washed. She reads the peanut butter jar label with interest during a quiet, furtive breakfast. Then she and her “husband” Clark/Philip/Mischa drive to a woodland airstrip before dawn, and she is flown off to…somewhere. Nowhere.
Martha is gone. But — Martha lives.
“Don’t be alone, Clark,” she tells the man who got her into all this, pretty generously, if you ask me.
“You, too,” he says.
“Oh sure, I’ll just learn Russian and…” She trails off. “Okay. Me, too.”
They kiss. A cloud shifts. The plane lifts. And she moves on.
The title of this episode, “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears,” takes its name from the illusionist’s fifth CBS television special. (At first glance, I read that “V” as “versus.” Thanks, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice!) Naturally, the installment is about making another big character vanish.
Henry Jennings gripes that his dad won’t be around to watch because he’s always away on “business.” But with Martha gone, he has one less double life to live. So Philip will be there, watching Lady Liberty disappear with the rest of the nation.
Elizabeth asks Philip about her departure. “She made it as good as she could,” he answers without answering. He’s reading, and his wife asks what he has there. It’s an EST manual. (He shows her without answering.)
She tries to talk to him about it, but Philip is aloof.
Elizabeth checks in with Young Hee, her mark-turned-actual-friend, and they catch a matinee of Tender Mercies before sneaking into another movie – The Outsiders – for a double feature.
Ironically, Young feels bad about the pyramid scheme that brought them together, a makeup selling business, in which sellers make more money by recruiting more members to sell for them. Of course, little does she know that Elizabeth is manipulating her as a source to get closer to her husband.
Elsewhere, Philip is grappling with his own guilt. He visits the graveyard where Eugene H. Craft is buried, the FBI computer tech he murdered to shift the blame for the bug Martha planted in her boss’ office.
Later, Philip has a beer with Stan, who confirms, in an oblique way, that they really were about to arrest their double-crossing secretary. (He also says his girlfriend broke up with him.)
When Philip tells Elizabeth he was right and they didn’t just pull Martha for nothing, his wife reassures him and sort of eulogizes his other wife. “She was a nice woman. She was straight-ahead. Uncomplicated. Simple.”
The more Elizabeth talks, the more irritated Philip becomes. “She wasn’t simple.”
“I don’t mean simple. I mean…easy…to talk to.”
“She was actually very complicated,” Philip says, hanging onto his beer and stooping over — the pain of Martha’s absence clearly twisting him up. “People underestimated her.”
“Apparently,” Elizabeth says. Ouch.
NEXT: Philip and Elizabeth — Round 2